Tacoma, WA (NursingSalary.org) – Nursing students at Tacoma Community College have joined the 3-D virtual world. TCC instructors, with the support of Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs, have created a 3D emergency room simulator in “Second Life”, the well known online virtual reality network.
Virtual patients can suffer from a wide range of severe conditions, from cardiac arrests to acute chest pain. Students can simulate real-life interventions from an on-screen menu and analyze the patients’ vital signs projected on a virtual wall. Patients react realistically to the procedures applied and can be also controlled by another student or faculty member.
John Miller, the virtual ER project coordinator at TCC, believes that the experience can be of a real value to the experience of the second year nursing students, since it will teach them how they should be reacting in real life situations, once they graduate and join the workforce.
“Such knowledge cannot be gained in an internship,” says Miller. “You simply cannot practice on real-life patients in the emergency room; you can’t simply read a textbook and suddenly be at the patient’s bedside. You could, at most, watch the professionals at work, but then you won’t be getting any hands-on experience.”
Also, serious conditions like a myocardial infarction aren’t to be seen on a daily basis—in fact, the chances of a student seeing something of the kind during an internship in a medical facility are close to none. With a VR simulator, future registered nurses can get a feel of what it would be like in real life.
The simulator is easy to navigate, since it’s based on the well established Second Life platform. On-screen menus are easy to follow even for the less tech-savvy students. Basic computer knowledge—like operating a mouse and a keyboard—is enough to work your way through Second Life. However, students who barely know how to use email do have some anxieties when using the simulator for the first time, but Miller mentioned pairing experienced students with novices in future to overcome this small issue.
Miller also announced the faculty is working on a few other simulations. Teaching students how to work with a burned patient is on top of their priorities. TCC hasn’t announced a release date for the new simulators.